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Product Completion
(July 18, 2001) Web advertising is not really any tougher than other forms. It does take real creative energy and focus. Most important (and usually last on the list) is messaging and design. There's a reason that advertising agencies charge so much for creative work. Problem solving with tight communication constraints is never an easy chore.

Often, what is encountered in the process of designing an ad is the fact that the core product definition has not been completed. In technical houses (like most of the Applicant Tracking segment and many job boards), the sales process is so convoluted that there isn't adequate time for relationship development. Endless focus on technical minutia distracts the marketing people (who often appear to be translators for their in-house geeks). A finished product is easy to describe and sellable as an afterthought to relationship development.

As a result, many advertising campaign development projects get hung up on messaging. Since the in-house team hasn't completed the work, it appears to be an advertising problem. Great agencies know how to explain this and help their customer move forward. Companies without agency support (the do it yourself, it's easy, crowd) fumble the seemingly simple task of developing their ads. Further investigation often shows a real misalignment between the half-baked product and the intended marketplace. Worse yet, the market is completely misunderstood.

Trying to fix the product by doing the advertising is one of those problems that looks like a small one when you start and turns into a lifetime occupation.

The answer, of course, is simple to say. Marketing, like usability and other critical features of a product, are best accomplished when designed into the early phases of development. Software that really works has marketing hooks designed into the code. Simplification of the product is easier at the beginning.

So, now that we've defined the problem with 75% of the offerings in the industry, how do you fix it once it's broken (knowing that the second time around lots of things are easier)?

Screwed up marketing is a critical enough problem to stop everything else until it's fixed. Do we think anyone will listen? Not a chance. But, what you do, once you've tried advertising and it doesn't work because the product was technical from the beginning is stop everything else until you're sure that advertising is straightforward.

(On a side note, it's astonishing how many vendors in our industry don't believe in advertising. They amount to small technical departments looking to be absorbed by a big daddy who really understands that 'business stuff).

Marketing is harder work than technical development. That's why technologists avoid it. It can't be fixed by squeezing that extra increment of code into the functionality. It can't be tweaked (initially). It takes concentration, often without the tangible results of a technical process. It's the protracted thinking that scares most people away. But, the product isn't completed until the marketing works and the ads have demonstrated results.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

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